Artist: The Good Rats
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Label: Independent Artist
If you are a fan of the Heavy Metal genre then I am rather certain that by now you are very well aware of the band Anvil a little bit more nowadays based on a movie that was done about their consistent struggle at fame and fortune in the music industry game. The film shed some serious light on just how hard this business is and showed that not everyone manages to find the success that they so richly seem to deserve. With that being said, what about those bands that have been at their craft for many years longer and didn’t have the luxury of a movie to help them snare some of that long overdue attention. One such band is the New York based Good Rats who were formed in 1964 and were one of those Long Island club circuit bands that played out over and over and based on their ardent support base would find almost every gig that was done being sold out with no room to breathe in the venue. The band’s most popular lineup consisted of lead singer Peppi Marchello and his brother Mickey (guitarist) along with John “The Cat” Gatto (guitar), Lenny Kotke (bass) and Joe Franco (drums) who together released a number of Hard Rocking and melodic albums. Despite the bands devoted fan base, the stratospheric heights that some bands manage to attain somehow eluded the Rats but I guess in the Rock and Roll world there are more stories like this than there are not and that is what made a night like tonight rather special because it would find the classic lineup of the band reunited and performing for the second of two sold out nights at Times Squares popular venue B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. Having been from the generation that came after this bands heyday I was glad to be a part of the fun tonight since I had long been enjoying the music of the group on such great CD’s as “Tasty” and “Ratcity In Blue”. For those who might be in the unaware, the music of the Good Rats was at times very hard rocking and always very melodic with some cool backing vocals and hooks.
It was about a year ago that the band tried this before and I believe that they did two shows in one night as opposed to this time around finding them being spaced across the weekend. In my humble opinion the two shows are better because it gives folks the chance to do a whole proper visit to the city and then close it out with a rocking show. I opted to attend the Saturday evening performance and as I walked in shortly before show time found the venue to be almost completely filled. They had opened the doors at 6pm so fans could sit and enjoy dinner, drinks and some Good Rats catching up chit chat. The audience seemed to be made up of not only of band core supporters from over the past few decades but also their immediate family members and friends. The band had a home town advantage tonight for their reunion so I was happy to see so many of their loved ones in the room. Readers should be aware that shows like this one almost always find the tables set up as opposed to the crushing Metal shows where you only find such things set up off to the sides. I was also happy to see this being the response for the bands gig because they surely deserve it after giving Rock & Roll so many good songs even if they have remained one of the genres best kept secrets. The show would start after a brief introduction from legendary Rock DJ Ken Dashow who asked the audience who remembered the group from clubs such as “My Father’s Place” and then it was down to business.
The guys came out with a great amount of energy and Rock & Roll force that would make many other younger bands shake in their boots if they had the chance to see them. The roars of the crowd and the whistling were fantastic as these very regular guys with a lot of musical talent started to deliver a chock full of hits set list that began with “Fireball Express”. The track comes from the bands album “Tasty” and as the night would progress we would be treated to all of the songs from this record. It’s really a fantastic album and I am sure that none of those around me were annoyed about this fact. Peppi was showing the crowd that he still had the pipes to give us his best and I was so impressed with the overall register he was putting forth because this guy is a Grandfather after all. Tonight Mr. Marchello proved that some things do get better with age. He was very candid with the audience and talked at some length between numbers. He was quick with the jokes and when someone yelled “you still got it Peppi”, he returned by asking the crowd if they had felt that every member of the band still had it by going through the roster of players one by one. This was of course met with applause and yells of approval.
The music was tight as a drum this evening and while I know that some rehearsals had to be done for the show it seemed that the level of being in sync was just too natural to had not come from all of their previous years experiences as musicians who worked together. Across the nights festivities we also found Mickey joking around with the audience and periodically asking his Mom who was apparently present as well had she brought any meatballs. One of his best lines was about his eating disorder and that he looks like he does from eating “disorder and disorder and disorder”. Peppi would keep us entertained as the emcee as well and periodically pointed out how much family was here this evening from his Mom to his grand kids and through it all he remained very personable as if he was performing in front of old friends tonight and by the look of it I am thinking that he was. Many of the people that I found myself speaking to between songs from time to time mentioned that they had been fans as long as they could remember and that’s awesome to find out being the case. We even found legendary drummer Carmine Appice in the room this evening but he was there for the fun and didn’t get up on the drums to play with the band, even though I am sure that Joe Franco would have let him sit in if he wanted to. I had to admit that I was not only enjoying how the whole thing was coming across but I was totally engaged by the level of play that Joe Franco was doing because I have always felt he was an incredibly solid drummer. Years ago he wrote a double bass drumming exercise book that my friends and I swore by to better hone the craft when this was something that I entertained in my life. Joe would deliver an excellent solo and then be teased by Peppi who pointed out how every time Joe breaks a sweat that he is wiping it off.
There seemed to be far too many songs that I enjoyed to point out every single one of them but I really leaned on the ones that I liked most from “Tasty”, “Ratcity” and “From Rats To Riches”. These three had the core of the set list and were most likely the bands higher level tracks in terms of public opinion. There was only a couple of tunes from “Birth Comes To Us All” and any gaps I must apologize for because those are the only albums that I own in my collection. For “Yellow Flower” the singer invited to the stage a number of the ladies in the audience who all formed a long chorus line and would shake their behinds when queued to do so. One could expect nothing less from a song about a tattoo located in that vicinity of the body. As the night drew closer to its end Peppi came out with his signature garbage can to toss out the rubber rats to the crowd but he teased the crowd saying that if you know their coming to watch out. Apparently he had beaned someone the night before with them, but they are only rubber so it made for a funny story. The rubber rats went sailing in all directions but I didn’t get near one of them which was ok by me since I know my cats would have made short work of it when I got home no matter how plastic it might be. There was a little bit of everything in this gig tonight because if you were a fan of tasty guitar work you were getting a double dose of it from both the Cat and Mickey and if you were someone who leaned on easy to sing along and memorable choruses, well you would get your fill of them this evening too. When I glanced around during certain numbers it was clear to me that everyone knew the tunes and was singing along with them. I’ve mentioned in the past that when its done properly the band not only hears but feels this from you on the stage and that is surely a motivator.
He mentioned that they might try to make this an annual thing and I think that this would be a great idea because there was a definite interest in the shows that happened here this weekend and that were reported to have happened last time around. I noticed that the show brought together a lot of people who used to see each other at the Good Rats shows so many years ago and now that life and its details had settled in were able to do so one more time. One grouping was actually a band of their own back in the day that not only used to go to see the Rats as a team of friends but also recanted to me how they even remember Twisted Sister before Dee Snider was in the lineup. I enjoyed hearing Rock stories from the past almost as much as I enjoyed the Good Rats show tonight and I would definitely catch them again if they choose to continue doing this. Their albums are still available via outlets like Amazon.com and of course through the bands own website, so take a chance on a couple of the ones we mentioned in this article as I am sure you will find them really interesting. This was a great time that I will not soon forget along with the other few hundred of people that were in the club with me.
1. Fireball Express
2. 300 Boys
3. Back To My Music
4. Injun Joe
5. Taking It To Detroit
6. Does It Make You Feel Good
7. Boardwalk Slasher
9. School Days
10. Cherry River
11. Ratcity In Blue
13. Don’t Hate The Ones Who Bring You Rock ‘n Roll
14. Let Me
15. Mr. Mechanic
16. Victory In Space
17. Coo Coo Coo Blues
18. Yellow Flower
20. Joe Franco Drum Solo
21. Reason To Kill
22. Local Zero
23. Poppa Poppa
24. Phil Fleish
25. Fred Upstairs and Ginger Snappers
26. The Songwriter
27. Mean Mother (listed but not performed)
Official Web site: http://www.goodrats.com
Official Wikipedia Entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Rats